The Handpulled Noodle opened in Harlem in February of 2015 and quickly got good notices in the NY Times and the Gothamist. This spot specializes in dishes from North West China, as filtered through the owner’s recollections of his mother’s cooking when he was growing up. The Handpulled Noodle is small with counter seating for about 15 people, and has a raw design feel with a concrete floor, walls covered in pages from the The People’s Daily and the catch-phrase “We Pull Your Noodles” painted graffiti style over an exposed brick wall. Even if you are eating at the counter they serve all the food in closed to-go containers, which makes it a little hard to eat the food and also subjects the food to needless steaming. They would do better just using paper plates for service. The dumplings were really good, but because of the stylist similarities I found it hard not to compare The Handpulled Noodle to Xi’an Famous (and here) on the Upper West Side: I think Xi’an comes out ahead in the comparison.
The Dumplings: at The Handpulled Noodle the dumplings are home made and pan fried pot-sticker style. There is the choice of Pork & Chive, Beef & Daikon, Lamb & Carrot and Egg & Chive. On Fridays they serve Chicken and Shitaki Baozi and on Saturdays they serve Beer Belly Baozi. For this outing I tried the Pork and the Lamb dumplings.
The Lamb & Carrot Dumplings – The chefs at The Handpulled Noodle definitely know their lamb, these dumplings were excellent. The filling had a full meaty flavor which was complemented by some sweetness from the carrots. It seemed like they used a good cut of lamb, because there was no gamey flavor that you sometimes get with cheaper cuts. These dumplings also worked really well with the vinegar and flavored oil dipping sauce.
The Pork & Chive Dumplings – These dumplings were good, but mainly because the chives were so fresh and bright flavored. The pork was a little under-seasoned and could have used some salt.
The Dipping Sauce: The dumplings came with sauce in little to-go tubs that were so small there is no way to actually dunk the dumplings in the sauce. The sauce was a mix of Chinese dark vinegar and an oil that has been simmered with garlic and scallions. The oil was really tasty but separated from the vinegar very quickly and once separated it was almost impossible to get the oil re-emulsified with the vinegar. The counters also had really cool looking metal oil cans full of soy sauce and tubs of sambal chili paste.
The Location: The Handpulled Noodle is on 148th street and Broadway in Harlem, on a block that seems to be gentrifying or hipster-ifying. The Chipped Cup coffee shop is on the same block and is co-owned by the owner of The Handpulled Noodle and is part of a series of new coffee shops owned by local real estate brokers who work for Bohemia Realty. The block is also home to the Harlem Public bar/lounge.